Rivers of India: Shail Agrawal

Rivers are probably the biggest travellers, nourishing the soil and distributing their goodies.

The Rivers of India are not mere rivers, they are the revered deities; not only the grain bowl of the naton depends on their flowing fresh water, but they also literally take care of an Indian’s spirituality from cradle to grave. It is on the banks of these rivers only that ultimate salvation( Moksh) is attained. Indian rivers can be classified as Himalayan, peninsular, coastal, and inland-drainage basin rivers. Himalayan rivers are snow fed and maintain a high to medium rate of flow throughout the year. Most sacred rivers for many, both Ganges and Yamuna are the Himalayan rivers. The heavy annual average rainfall levels in the Himalayan catchment areas further add to their rates of flow. During the monsoon months of June to September, the catchment areas are prone to flooding. The volume of the rain-fed peninsular rivers also increases. Coastal streams, especially in the west, are short and episodic.

Rivers of the inland system, centered in western Rajasthan state, are few and frequently disappear in years of scant rainfall. The majority of the South Asia’s major rivers flow through broad, shallow valleys and drain into the Bay of Bengal.The Ganga River basin, India’s largest, includes approximately 25 percent of the nation’s area; it is bounded by the Himalayas in the north and the Vindhya Range to the south. The Ganga has its source in the glaciers of the Greater Himalayas, which form the frontier between India and Tibet in northwestern Uttar Pradesh. Many Indians believe that the legendary source of the Ganga, and several other important Asian rivers, lies in the sacred Mapam Yumco Lake (known to the Indians as Manasarowar Lake; probably the most sacread lake in hindu mythology; most scriptures quote it. ) of western Tibet located approximately 75 kilometers northeast of the India-China-Nepal tripoint. In the northern part of the Ganga River basin, practically all of the tributaries of the Ganga are perennial streams. However, in the southern part, located in the states of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, many of the tributaries are not perennial.

The Brahmaputra has the greatest volume of water of all the rivers in India because of heavy annual rainfall levels in its catchment basin. At Dibrugarh the annual rainfall averages 2,800 millimeters, and at Shillong it averages 2,430 millimeters. Rising in Tibet, the Brahmaputra flows south into Arunachal Pradesh after breaking through the Great Himalayan Range and dropping rapidly in elevation. It continues to fall through gorges impassable by man in Arunachal Pradesh until finally entering the Assam Valley where it meanders westward on its way to joining the Ganga in Bangladesh.

Out of the all indian rivers Brahmputra is probably the wildest and most ravishing. A mystical, mighty river of extremes and singularities, the Brahmaputra in fact changes its name five times along its course, which begins more than four thousand metres up in the Tibetan Himalayas, making the Yarlung Tsangpo, as it is called here, the highest of the world’s main rivers. Rushing to the east through the Tsangpo Gorge, one of the deepest on earth, it descends some three thousand metres through lethal whitewater rafting territory and pristine natural habitat frequented only by unique wildlife and the indigenous Bodo people. It enters the plains of the most eastern edge of India in Arunachal Pradesh before being joined by two other rivers as it enters Assam, where it widens and becomes the sacred Brahmaputra, or ‘Son of Brahma’ – the only river in India and Bangladesh to bear the name of a male deity. It flows through Bangladesh under yet another name before ending as a huge delta in the Bay of Bengal. Aside from being one of the seven holy rivers in Hindu mythology, the Brahmaputra is amongst the very few in the world to have an up-river wave due to its funnel-shaped join with the sea, which concentrates the force of the incoming tide.

The Mahanadi, rising in the state of Madhya Pradesh, is an important river in the state of Orissa. In the upper drainage basin of the Mahanadi, which is centered on the Chhattisgarh Plain, periodic droughts contrast with the situation in the delta region where floods may damage the crops in what is known as the rice bowl of Orissa. Hirakud Dam, constructed in the middle reaches of the Mahanadi, has helped in alleviating these adverse effects by creating a reservoir.

The source of the Godavari is northeast of Bombay (Mumbai in the local Marathi language) in the state of Maharashtra, and the river follows a southeasterly course for 1,400 kilometers to its mouth on the Andhra Pradesh coast. The Godavari River basin area is second in size only to the Ganga; its delta on the east coast is also one of the country’s main rice-growing areas. It is known as the “Ganga of the South,” but its discharge, despite the large catchment area, is moderate because of the medium levels of annual rainfall, for example, about 700 millimeters at Nasik and 1,000 millimeters at Nizamabad. The Krishna rises in the Western Ghats and flows east into the Bay of Bengal. It has a poor flow because of low levels of rainfall in its catchment area–660 millimeters annually at Pune. Despite its low discharge, the Krishna is the third longest river in India.

The source of the Kaveri is in the state of Karnataka, and the river flows southeastward. The waters of the river have been a source of irrigation since antiquity; in the early 1990s, an estimated 95 percent of the Kaveri was diverted for agricultural use before emptying into the Bay of Bengal. The delta of the Kaveri is so mature that the main river has almost lost its link with the sea, as the Kollidam, the distributary of the Kaveri, bears most of the flow.

The Narmada and the Tapti are the only major rivers that flow into the Arabian Sea. The Narmada rises in Madhya Pradesh and crosses the state, passing swiftly through a narrow valley between the Vindhya Range and spurs of the Satpura Range. It flows into the Gulf of Khambhat (or Cambay). The shorter Tapti follows a generally parallel course, between eighty kilometers and 160 kilometers to the south of the Narmada, flowing through the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat on its way into the Gulf of Khambhat.

From worshipping & celebrating to cleansing & curing rivers are an intrigate part of an Indian way of life.

Shail Agrawal